You have to be something of an optimist to be a writer. So said the iconic writer Harold Pinter who died in the last day or so. This had never occurred to me, as I consider myself a pessimist and feel that it is more often than not my despair and dread which leaks into my work.

I guess what he meant was that in trying to communicate even the most hope-less of messages, we writers carry the slenderest faith that our words may have an effect, perhaps even open up the possibility of change. Otherwise why would we bother?

I continue to rail, therefore, against the forced jollity of this time of year, condemning the crushing commercialism and obscene over-indulgence. And ask: where is the stillness, the silence, the peace?